Holy Land’s 10 processions in honor of Christ and the Virgin Mary 

By: Saher Kawas/ lpj.org - Published: June 25 Fri, 2021

Holy Land’s 10 processions in honor of Christ and the Virgin Mary  Available in the following languages:

HOLY LAND - Below you find 10 processions that the Catholic Church in the Holy Land organizes in honor of Christ and His mother the Virgin Mary.

1. Conclusion of the Marian Month procession 

On the last day of May, the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, several processions[1] are held in the different parts of the Jerusalem Diocese to mark the end of the Marian month. 

In Jerusalem, the Church marks the conclusion of the month of Mary by firstly holding a Holy Mass at St. Saviour Church. The procession then starts from the Custody of the Holy Land Monastery and continues in the streets of the Christian Quarter in the Old City. The Bishop of Jerusalem carries the Icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary and officiates the procession, followed by the crowd of faithful carrying the statue of Mary. The traditional route includes two stops before returning to St. Saviour Church for the final blessing. One is at the Brothers’ School near New Gate and the second takes place at the Co-Cathedral of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

During the month of May, devotions and prayers are held to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary and thus called the Marian month. This year, Pope Francis urged the faithful to pray the Rosary during this month to invoke an end to the Coronavirus pandemic. Thirty shrines have been chosen to lead the Marian prayer on each day, among them was the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, with a special prayer intention for the expectant women and the unborn.

2. Palm Sunday procession

The Palm Sunday procession is considered to be the most important and highly anticipated procession in the Holy Land. The earliest reference to the Palm Sunday services and procession can be traced back to the 4th century in the account of the Pilgrimage of Egeria. 

The feast commemorates the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, welcomed by the cheering palm-waving crowd. The traditional procession starts at Bethphage and continues through the Mount of Olives until the Church of St. Anne.

In the last two years, participation in the Palm Sunday ceremonies and the overall Holy Week was impacted due to the spread of the Coronavirus in the country. In 2020, the Palm Sunday procession was limited to prayer at the Dominus Flevit sanctuary, attended by the clergy. This year, about 2000 people were present, mostly Christian foreigners, some of whom are migrants, working and living in the country, the Religious men and women serving in the Holy Land and a handful of Jerusalemites.

3. Our Lady of Mount Carmel procession in Haifa

Known as “Tal’it il-’adra”[2] in Arabic, the procession of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the second most attended after that of Palm Sunday. The history of the procession dates back to World War I, when the Ottoman authorities took over the Stella Maris monastery and asked the Carmelites to leave. With some of the liturgical items, the Carmelites took the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and sought shelter in the Parish of St. Joseph in the city. In 1919, the people of Haifa, in procession, brought back the statue to its Sanctuary on Mount Carmel.  

Every year, the procession takes place on the third Sunday of Easter and attracts the Christian faithful from the area around Haifa, as well as from cities of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

4. Our Lady of Palestine Feast and procession in Deir Rafat

The Feast of Our Lady of Palestine was established by Patriarch Luigi Barlassina in 1920. That year, he made his solemn entry into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and dedicated himself and the diocese to Christ and His Blessed mother under the title of “Queen of Palestine”, which was officially recognized by the Sacred Congregation of Rites in 1933. In 1927, the Patriarch also built a shrine for Our Lady in Deir Rafat, west of Jerusalem.

The feast falls on the last Sunday of October of every year and draws people from the parishes of the Holy Land. After the Holy Mass, the Bishop carries the Icon of Our Lady of Palestine and leads the clergy, Religious men and women and the faithful in procession, who in turn carry the statue of the Virgin Mary around the Marian Shrine.

In October 2020, the Diocese of Jerusalem celebrated the centenary for its dedication to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Palestine.

5. Holy Cross procession in Mi’ilya, Galilee

For the last 20 years, the Greek Catholic inhabitants of Mi’ilya in Galilee have been holding a procession on the eve of the Feast of the Holy Cross. The idea to organize the ceremony was introduced by Archbishop Boutros Mouallem of the Greek Melkite Catholic Archeparchy of Akko, who wanted Mi’ilya to be a Christian center of religious influence derived from the spirit of the Cross. 

During this feast, the faithful remember the events of finding the Holy Cross by St. Helena, mother of Constantine. The feast also recalls the returning of the Cross to Jerusalem by Byzantine emperor Heraclius in 629, after it was stolen during the Sasanian conquest of Jerusalem in 614.

6. Our Lady of the Mount in Anjara Feast and procession

The Feast of Our Lady of the Mount in Anjara, Jordan, has become an annual pilgrimage since its establishment in 2000 by Fr. Yousef N’imat, a Latin Patriarchate priest. Fr. Yousef built the Shrine for the Blessed Virgin Mary and Jesus to commemorate their passing through and staying in one of the caves of the present location of Anjara. In 2010, the site became the focus of public attention after the statue of Our Lady, which sat in the parish house, shed tears of blood. After further investigation and testing, it was confirmed that the blood tears were human. 

The Catholic Church in Jordan organizes this pilgrimage in June, which includes a Holy Mass followed by a procession of the Icon and statue of the Virgin Mary around the premises of the church.

Anjara is one of five locations in Jordan declared by the Vatican as a Christian pilgrimage site. The other four are Mount Nebo, Machaerous, the Baptism Site and Tell Mar Elias.

7. Sacred Heart of Jesus and Corpus Christi

According to the liturgical calendar, the month of June is dedicated to Corpus Christi (or Corpus Domini) and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. 

In Jerusalem, the Latin Patriarch presides over the first vespers and Holy Mass of the Corpus Christi at the Holy Sepulchre. In procession, he leads the clergy and faithful three times around the Tomb of Jesus before giving the final blessing of the Blessed Sacrament.

In Bethlehem, the Bishop of Jerusalem or his vicar celebrates the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at the Salesian Church, which carries the same name as the feast. After the Mass, the presiding bishop carries the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist and kicks off the procession in the streets of the Old City of Bethlehem. 

8. Hortus Conclusus procession in Irtas, Bethlehem

The village of Irtas or Artas, located 4 kilometers southwest of Bethlehem, is home to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Garden, or Hortus Conclusus[3]. Archbishop of Montevideo Mariano Soler asked Pope Leo XIII to build, which was designed by a Bethlehemite architect, Morcos Nassar. The realization of the project was made possible with the generous donations of the Catholics of the Republics of Argentina and Uruguay. The Shrine has been entrusted to the Daughters of Saint Mary of Hortus Conclusus since 1901. 

The first Marian procession to take place at the Shrine was in 1919. In the past, the faithful used to march past the boundaries of the convent reaching Solomon’s pools and the entrance of the village. Nowadays, the procession is only limited to the surroundings of the Shrine. With the help of the Daughters of Saint Mary, the organization of the event is carried out by the Latin Patriarchal Seminarians of Beit Jala. 

9. The Feast of Mary’s Assumption and procession in Jerusalem 

On August 15 of each year, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven. 

In Jerusalem, two processions are organized for this solemnity; the first starts after the prayer vigil in the Kidron Valley and continues towards the Basilica of Gethsemane and the second takes place from the grotto of Gethsemane (or the grotto of betrayal) to the Church of the Assumption.

Since the Church of the Assumption is subjected to the Status Quo regulations and is exclusively administered by the Orthodox Churches of the Greek and Armenians, August 15 is the only date when the Franciscans can preside over a short liturgy and venerate the burial site of the Virgin Mary.

Two weeks later, the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates the Assumption feast and larger scale processions are witnessed. A few hours before sunrise, on the day of the feast, the faithful of Bethlehem walk to Jerusalem, some barefoot as an act of penance, praying the Rosary until they arrive at the Church of the Assumption. Later that day, an icon of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary is carried from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate towards the Church of the Assumption, and then brought back again to the Patriarchate.

10. Via Dolorosa procession in the old city of Jerusalem 

Every Friday, the Franciscan friars walk the Via Dolorosa and the 14 Stations of the Cross. But it is Good Friday that draws large numbers of pilgrims. The Way of the Cross in the footsteps of Jesus starts at noon and in mid-afternoon, the Franciscans celebrate the Tenebrae. Finally, Christians will conduct, in the Basilica of the Resurrection, a ceremony proper to Jerusalem, a Funeral Procession of Christ.

In the last two years, and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, pilgrims were not able to partake in the processions during Lent and Good Friday. This led the Custody of the Holy Land to create a virtual Way of the Cross, a series of videos that were filmed and broadcast to give those who could not participate a chance to follow the stations through social media.

[1] In Beit Jala, the procession starts at Cremisan Monastery and concludes at the Latin Parish and Patriarchal Seminary. In Bethlehem, the faithful start the procession at the Church of St. Catherine, walk in Star Street and return to the church once again.

[2] Tal’it il-’adra: The ascent of the Virgin

[3] Hortus Conclusus is mentioned in the Canticle of Canticles (4: 12).